Eastern Dawn: Judean Palms

I thought that it was a Sunday morning in May, that it was Easter Sunday,

and as yet very early in the morning.  I was standing, as it seemed to me, at the door of my own cottage.  Right before me lay the very scene which could really be commanded from that situation, but exalted, as was usual, and solemnised by the power of dreams.  There were the same mountains, and the same lovely valley at their feet; but the mountains were raised to more than Alpine height, and there was interspace far larger between them of meadows and forest lawns; the hedges were rich with white roses; and no living creature was to be seen, excepting that in the green churchyard there were cattle tranquilly reposing upon the verdant graves, and particularly round about the grave of a child whom I had tenderly loved, just as I had really beheld them, a little before sunrise in the same summer, when that child died.  I gazed upon the well-known scene, and I said aloud (as I thought) to myself, “It yet wants much of sunrise, and it is Easter Sunday; and that is the day on which they celebrate the first fruits of resurrection.  I will walk abroad; old griefs shall be forgotten to-day; for the air is cool and still, and the hills are high and stretch away to heaven; and the forest glades are as quiet as the churchyard, and with the dew I can wash the fever from my forehead, and then I shall be unhappy no longer.”

And I turned as if to open my garden gate, and immediately I saw upon the left a scene far different, but which yet the power of dreams had reconciled into harmony with the other.  The scene was an Oriental one, and there also it was Easter Sunday, and very early in the morning.  And at a vast distance were visible, as a stain upon the horizon, the domes and cupolas of a great city—an image or faint abstraction, caught perhaps in childhood from some picture of Jerusalem.  And not a bow-shot from me, upon a stone and shaded by Judean palms, there sat a woman, and I looked, and it was—Ann!  She fixed her eyes upon me earnestly, and I said to her at length: “So, then, I have found you at last.”  I waited, but she answered me not a word.  Her face was the same as when I saw it last, and yet again how different!  Seventeen years ago, when the lamplight fell upon her face, as for the last time I kissed her lips (lips, Ann, that to me were not polluted), her eyes were streaming with tears: the tears were now wiped away; she seemed more beautiful than she was at that time, but in all other points the same, and not older.  Her looks were tranquil, but with unusual solemnity of expression, and I now gazed upon her with some awe; but suddenly her countenance grew dim, and turning to the mountains I perceived vapours rolling between us.  In a moment all had vanished, thick darkness came on, and in the twinkling of an eye I was far away from mountains, and by lamplight in Oxford Street, walking again with Ann—just as we walked seventeen years before, when we were both children.

From: Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas De Quincey, 1821.

Photo: http://toulogoilogou.blogspot.com/

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